Shaheer Pulikkal interviews famous young American poet Dustin Pickering and explores his journey as a poet, writer, and editor.
Dustin Pickering is the founder of Transcendent Zero Press and founding editor of Harbinger Asylum. He was shortlisted in Adelaide Literary Journal’s first short fiction contest and longlisted in the erbacce contest out of 13,500 entries. He is a former contributor to Huffington Post and has written reviews for World Literature Today, and The Statesman (India). He lives in Houston, Texas, USA.
Shaheer Pulikkar (SP): Do you come from a literary background?
Dustin Pickering (DP): Well, yes and no. My family is from the American South, small-town Mississippi. My grandmother loved literature from a young age and read Anna Karenina in fifth grade. She was only allowed to read the Bible at home, but she loved to read other books. She became a librarian assistant but never completed college. Most of my immediate family are engineers and science people. My cousin is studying at Johns Hopkins. There is no shortage of intellect in my family. I do have a cousin who published in a small college journal for a short time until he lost interest. My great aunt taught English to young people. I was tutored by a black woman in Monticello, Mississippi named Ms. Mary Ott and I probably developed a love of books from her.
I was a lazy intellectual at a young age. I carried a lot of books around but often did not finish them. I fell in love with poetry after reading Sylvia Plath. I won a contest in 5th grade for writing a poem about environmentalism and I was paid 10 dollars. I was actively hammered with literature and don’t exactly come from a New York Ivy League-style background. One of my teachers in high school Advanced Placement English, Mrs. Teltschick, is probably the best English and drama teacher in the state of Texas. The poet laureate of Texas for 2022 was also one of her students. She encouraged me a lot to read more– introducing me to Spenser, Eliot, Dostoevsky, Rand, Emerson, and Thoreau, and was impressed with my readings of Shelley, Keats, and Milton. She even gave me a copy of Henry James’s short fiction when I expressed interest in The Beast in the Jungle. Her influence on her students was remarkable.